How to Optimize Your Facebook Advertising Strategy Like the Pros Do


First the revolution was televised. Then it was digitized. Now, it has been almost completely socialized. In short order, social media went from an interesting curiosity to an essential and established part of our lives. What was once a wild west of amateur experimentation is now serious business. Today, a smart and modern Facebook strategy has very real impacts on virtually every company’s bottom line.

When it comes to social media, the trade winds shift constantly as the major players jockey for dominance. But the 800-pound gorilla in the room is still Facebook: the first network to win over the masses. 93-percent of marketers are building Facebook campaigns regularly, according to Social Media Examiner, and with good reason: over 1.28 billion people around the world use the platform actively.

The days of just throwing a funny meme up on your page and expecting tons of likes and shares are over. That’s not to say there isn’t still room for some of that, but seasoned marketers are no longer just playing around with the platform. They are building comprehensive game plans and adjusting them continuously in light of rich analytic feedback.

Here’s a quick but thorough primer on the current best practices:

Stay Real

Facebook is emblematic of the transparent culture of today. No one can hide for long when everything we say and do is recorded, tagged, searchable, and easily shared. Don’t fight that reality, embrace it! At its core, Facebook is a community, and communities are places where we open ourselves up to create a shared experience with others.

Take advantage of this chance to build personal connections with your followers. When you slip up, make fun of yourself. LinkedIn has carved out a niche for itself as the place for dry, all business communications where a bit of spin is tolerated. Facebook users expect a more casual, more authentic, and more personal brand message.

Example: Dollar Shave Club won fans for using simple, fun, and slightly snarky ad copy that was in keeping with its laid-back brand strategy. It helped convince men and women alike to choose them over more expensive options.


Be Exclusive

There’s no shortage of content available today. There’s so much that most people have trouble keeping up with it. Taking it all in is like drinking from a fire hose, and yet, everyone will stop what they are doing and check out the latest story or piece of media if it’s sufficiently captivating.

Figuring out what makes something compelling or viral-friendly is not an exact science, but one thing that always helps is exclusivity. Every brand has access to media only they can share. Often this comes in the form of an announcement of an upcoming initiative they are unveiling, but it can also be behind-the-scenes photos and videos from a recent project.

Example: Amazon is the creator and sole owner of Prime Day, its annual deal extravaganza, and they chose a limited number of places to promote it, including a Facebook events page.

Fight for Mindshare

Out of sight, as they say, is out of mind, and with a reported eight second average attention span that truism is more relevant than ever. If your brand disappears off the feed for too long don’t be surprised if a lot of your followers never come back.

Consistency is vital to staying top of mind, which is why content planning has become a mission critical operation even if content marketing isn’t a major component of your overall brand strategy. Content can generate leads and even drive sales, but most of all it keeps you in the conversation.

Example: Mail order underwear retailer MeUndies saw a 47-percent increase in new subscriptions after running a 10-day mobile campaign on Facebook in 2017.


Mix Things Up

One of the nice things about Facebook is that it is equally good at sharing just about any type of content. YouTube is for videos, Twitter is for short form updates, LinkedIn users reward in depth discussions, and Instagram is primarily a visual medium, but Facebook does all those things equally well. Followers seem to appreciate when their News Feed is populated with a healthy mix of everything.

One of the most popular advertising formats on Facebook lately is the carousel, a mini slideshow of multiple content items. Not only does it add variety to your feed, but it’s highly optimized for mobile users and is associated with lower cost-per-conversion and lower cost-per-click rates than traditional static ads.

ExampleArtisan bracelet retailer Pura Vida saw a 20X increase in unique products sold thanks to dynamic ads in the carousel format.


Add a Little Flair

Facebook took some heat for imitating (let’s be honest, straight up cloning) many of Snapchat’s most distinctive features, but ultimately the move paid off. Snapchat is struggling amid a much maligned redesign and Facebook has successfully integrated filters, stickers, drawing tools, and other fun widgets into its platforms.

These gadgets are a quick and easy way to add some color, humor, and personality to an otherwise bland piece of content. The latest technological marvel they have rolled out is an advanced augmented reality (AR) studio that adds interactive effects that react in real time to whatever your camera is seeing.

Example: Michael Kors was among the first brands to try selling with AR, with an ad that lets users virtually try on a pair of his designer sunglasses.

Tell a Story

Stories is another Snapchat invention that just about every other platform has adopted. This increasingly popular format is a curated slideshow of pictures and videos, often adorned with stickers and filters that disappears after 24 hours. Formerly, only available on Instagram, brands can now cross post their stories to Facebook as well.

Unlike the permanent items on the traditional News Feed, the disappearing nature of stories make them ideal for testing out somewhat goofier, more topical, and lighthearted content, for example by sharing a day in the life of your brand or the sights encountered at a recent trade event or corporate outing.

Example: Women’s clothing brand Madewell used the stories format to its full advantage with a Christmas shopping list packed full of images and videos of their products for users to swipe through.


Go Live

Facebook first started offering live streaming options in the summer of 2016. There’s always an element of risk involved when you broadcast live. Anything can and often does happen, and brands who like to tightly control their messaging are often reticent to take that chance.

But, under controlled circumstances, a brief (five minute or less) live show is an exciting and attention grabbing space to make announcements, answer customer questions, or just hang out and give your audience a truly unvarnished peek at how you work and what you’re operation looks like. Definitely choose a location that highlights your culture and ideally features plenty of visual branding.

Example: Starbucks was an early adopter of Facebook Live. In 2016, the brand live streamed an event at Rufus King Park in Queens, NY for National Voter Registration Day to showcase its community involvement.

Start a Conversation

Comment bots made a lot of buzz when they were first announced. Advances in artificial intelligence were touted as enabling truly lifelike interactions that would let brands create personalized experiences at scale. That promise might have been a bit premature, but automated chatbots, both on Facebook’s website and its popular Messenger app, have become something of a lead generation secret weapon.

For example, brands can post messages inviting consumers to respond with a keyword to enter a content or receive a free gift. An automated bot will then immediately connect with them, via private message, to collect their information. It’s a real time interaction that’s even lower friction than directing users to a landing page; it all happens right on the page or app they are already on.

Example: Sephora cosmetics used an optimized chatbot in Facebook’s Messenger app to collect information and book customers for its in-store makeover service. The faster reservation process resulted in an 11-percent increase in sign-ups.

Make it Discoverable

By now, most brands have caught on to the fact that hashtags help spread their advertising and content marketing messages further. Savvier marketers, however, are also adding location tagging. Letting people know where you’re posting from adds relevant information, provides proof that you’re not a bot or a spam farm posting from across the world, and creates one more avenue for people to find your post in a search result.

Example: Porsche celebrated its 70th anniversary this year by using the hashtag #Porsche70Years to promote the achievement, and they encouraged fans and followers to do the same.


Target the Right Audience

Just because Facebook has a large audience doesn’t mean you should try to get your story in front of everyone. For one thing, that would be exorbitantly expensive, and for another, only a small subset of those people are going to be potential customers. With so many targeting tools built right into Facebook’s advertising platform, it would be foolish and wasteful to try and send your messaging to absolutely everyone.

Leveraging Custom Audience options can net returns on marketing investments that are three times higher than un-targeted approaches. Facebook is one of the world’s biggest repositories of personal information. Its users happily divulge tons of valuable information about themselves, allowing for targeting based on a number of criteria, such as age, location, employment, interests, and even behavioral data like previous exposure to your ads (which is useful for retargeting campaigns).

Another great feature to exploit is Facebook’s Lookalike Audiences, which helps you find a pool of new potential followers and customers with demographic and psychographic characteristics similar to the people already interacting with you.

Example: For its MBA program, Baylor University smartly targeted people aged 23 and older in Texas who have a bachelor’s degree.


Boost and Promote

Several years ago organic reach on Facebook was much higher than it is now. An ad could see strong numbers of views without paying extra. Boosting is more necessary today, but it’s still a relatively cost effective way to promote your existing content and get an instant gain in exposure. If you have a post that is doing fairly well organically, always consider boosting it to maximize its effectiveness; widening its range, and attracting new followers.

Example: Digital magazine Bustle chose a visually engaging and highly relevant article it recently published to boost, vastly improving its reach.


Split Test

A/B testing, trying out two different versions of a feature or piece of content to see which scores higher metrics, is standard practice in app and web development today. The only way to know which of two headlines or thumbnail images audiences will respond better to is to try them both out. Facebook has a split testing system that lets you test out permutations of the same ad using different formats, images, copywriting, calls-to-action, and even audience targeting selections.

Example: A split test done by Uber found that, contrary to popular belief, removing an exclamation point actually increased click-through rates.

Track Insights

There are third party analytics platforms and dashboards that will help you track and analyze your ad performance on Facebook, but their own proprietary system, Facebook Audience Insights, is full featured enough for just about anyone. It provides one convenient location to monitor likes, engagement levels, reach, and audience demographics.

Together these insights help you understand how your page, posts, and ads are doing, where your likes are coming from, how far your message is spreading, what types of interactions are popular, which videos are getting watched, and how often you’re responding to queries both on the website and in the Messenger app.

Example: Bombas socks credited a 2X increase in product purchases and a 23X increase in sales per ad set to a holistic Facebook campaign that included in depth measurement of their marketing decisions.


Summing Up

Rumors of Facebook’s decline have circulated many times over the years. Yet, despite the best efforts of Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn, and other pretenders to the throne, Mark Zuckerberg is still steering the ship of the world’s largest and most valuable social network. No brand today can afford to miss out on its robust and ever growing suite of advertising opportunities.

Nevertheless, just throwing money at Facebook and hoping for a good return on your marketing investment is a long way from a fruitful plan of attack. To get the most bang for your buck, it takes pre-planning, awareness, agility, a deep toolkit, consistent effort, and a willingness to stay ahead of changing trends.